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Punter Battle Going To The Wire

The Cardinals must decide on a few backups before Saturday’s cuts, but the only starting position battle remaining is at punter.

The competition is close. Matt Wile has done better on kickoffs, coach Bruce Arians said, and he seems like the favorite to win the job, but a big showing in the final preseason game on Thursday against the Broncos could give Richie Leone the edge.

 “It will come down to this game,” Arians said.

Arians hasn’t been particularly pleased with either punter through the preseason, although both have numbers that surpass anything done by Wile, Ryan Quigley or Drew Butler in 2016.

It’s no secret that special teams helped torpedo the Cardinals’ chances at the playoffs last year. Punter stability is a must, and performing well under pressure is an element to that. Leone talked Tuesday about the idea of one game deciding the competition.

“It’s not easy, but that’s the test of being a pro,” Leone said. “Sometimes you want to get out there – you have limited opportunities. You’ve just got to make the most of them.”

Arians hasn’t ruled out adding a different punter. That could come after the wave of cuts this weekend or any time during the regular season if there is subpar performance at the position.

That’s why Wile doesn’t feel like this game is that much different from others.

“In the NFL,” Wile said, “really any game is cutting time.”

Punting Numbers Since 2016
Richie Leone (2017 preseason) 8 387 48.4 43.4 61
Matt Wile (2017 preseason) 8 348 43.5 40.4 65
Ryan Quigley (2016) 34 1,416 41.6 37.2 55
Drew Butler (2016) 32 1,350 42.2 35.6 62
Matt Wile (2016) 10 437 43.7 37.5 59
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